Published January 14, 2013
Jon Hammar says he read nearly the whole Bible -- all of the Old Testament and most of the New Testament -- during more than four months in a Mexican prison on a dubious weapons charge before he was freed just before Christmas last month.
Hammar, a 27-year-old Marine combat veteran from Florida, withstood threats, attempts at extortion and, toward the end of the ordeal, his own deteriorating health. But in an interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, he underscored that his story was one of survival.
"I think I did all right, because I'm alive right now," he said.
Hammar and friends were planning a trip to Mexico last year when he contacted American border authorities about what they would have to do to take a hunting shotgun with them. He said in the Fox News interview that the American authorities said he just needed to carry the proper paperwork and declare the gun to Mexican officials.
But on the other side of the border, "that's when things started going wrong," he said.
After several days waiting for clearance from the Mexicans, he was taken to prison instead. His friends made it out, but he was thrown behind bars and faced attempts to extort money from his family in exchange of his release.
In addition to the Bible, he read "The Last Stand of Fox Company," a true story about Marines in combat on the Korean Peninsula in 1950. He said his health held up until the end, when he became dehydrated and malnourished and developed a lung infection and a stomach illness.
At the same time, he said, he wasn't sure until the last month that American authorities were having any success arguing for his freedom, though he remained in contact with the consulate.
"I didn’t feel that anything worked out in my favor," he said.
That changed after his case drew greater media attention and with the work of Florida lawmakers -- he specifically singled out Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for thanks. He was released to his father Dec. 21, and they drove home to Florida in time for Christmas.
He told Fox News he bears no bitterness to Mexico over his incarceration.
"I think Mexico's a great place. I really wish everywhere could get its act together," he said.